Terrorism for the cameras

On this week’s terrorist attack on Srinagar

“Barring that it took place around the corner from the offices of Srinagar-based television stations,” writes The Hindu in today’s editorial, “there was little to distinguish the incident from dozens of similar fire engagements that regularly take place in the State.”

During the course of the attack, the Pakistani handler instructed the terrorists to prolong the attack for as long as they could, to conserve ammunition by carefully firing single or two-round bursts. “You must make every effort,” said the handler “to stretch this through the night and the whole day tomorrow.”

As good an example as you can get, to demonstrate that terrorism is theatre. As Bruce Schneier wrote:

The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics. The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act. [Bruce Schneier]

This was not a brainless 3act of terrorism involving indiscriminate attacks aimed at creating mass casualty. This was a clever attempt to achieve the same effect but with the limited resources at their disposal. The terrorists counted on the television media to act as the force multiplier. They didn’t entirely fail, as Pragmatic Euphony points out.

But when Indian intelligence authorities released intercepts of conversations between the terrorists and their handlers, the tables were turned. It is unclear if jihadi organisations fire (pun unintended) their handlers, but Junaid presents a fit case for dismissal. If your strategic intent is to prove that the violent ‘freedom struggle’ in Kashmir is not dead, it is not too clever to give the game away by using a phrase like “breathe life into a dead horse.”

(Of course, it is possible, though unlikely, that the intercepts that were released were false or doctored. That still doesn’t change the final score.)